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Case resulting from fatal fire in Mystic in 2005 is settled

By Joe Wojtas

Publication: The Day

Published February 21. 2013 4:00AM

Mystic - The estate of a man killed in a 2005 apartment house fire on East Main Street has settled its lawsuit against building owner and New London attorney C. George Kanabis.

John LaCava, the attorney for the estate of Jose Antonio Chillogallo, stated in a Feb. 1 court filing that the case has been settled. The withdrawal of the suit was slated to have taken place by Monday, but LaCava asked for a 60-day extension, to April 19, because probate court approval is needed.

The extension is needed because some of the beneficiaries of the estate live in Ecuador and must be notified. LaCava said that when probate court approval is received, he will withdraw the suit against Kanabis.

It is unknown how much Kanabis will pay to settle the case, but last year, his attorney offered to pay $300,000. A trial was slated to begin Feb. 14.

Chillogallo and Gerry Sanderson were killed in the Aug. 4, 2005, fire at 19 E. Main St. The 64-year-old Chillogallo, a native of Ecuador, and Sanderson, 42, worked at Bravo Bravo, the restaurant across the street owned by the Kanabis family.

An investigation by the state fire marshal's office found that the fire was accidental and caused by the "careless use of smoking materials" by Sanderson. The building has since been torn down. Chillogallo's estate sued the Mystic Fire District, Fire Chief Fritz Hilbert, Kanabis, and Sanderson's estate but later withdrew the latter party from the suit.

The suit alleges that there were numerous health and safety violations in the building that Kanabis knew about or should have known about. These included smoke detectors that didn't work and renovations he made to the building without permits or certificates of occupancy.

The suit also alleges the building lacked the required two exits from the second floor where Chillogallo lived, that hazardous and combustible materials were stored in the building, and doors did not have the proper fire rating. There was also no fire extinguisher for tenants to use, the apartments were not built to protect tenants from the rapid spread of fire, smoke and gas, and the exits were not free of obstructions, according to the suit.

The suit charges that Kanabis failed to warn his tenants about the problems in the building and that he failed to contact the local fire marshal's office to allow an inspection when requested to do so. It also alleges he failed to take any action to fix the problems when he knew or should have known that failure to do so posed an unreasonable risk to his tenants.

The estate removed the Mystic Fire District as a defendant from its lawsuit last year, after the two parties reached a settlement. Court records show that the fire district offered to pay $200,000 to the estate while Chillogallo's estate had proposed a $350,000 settlement. The fire district's insurance company, the Volunteer Fire Insurance Service, covered any damages.

The attorney for the insurance company said that because of a confidentiality agreement between the two parties, he could not disclose any information.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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